- The candidate you’re interviewing is a big partier? Just look at his Facebook page.
- The customer service supervisor stood up for her employees being criticized by the marketing department?
- No one working at SAS ever wants to leave? The working conditions there are fabulous.
- You can always count on Alicia and Mark to help you, even when they’re swamped?”
What’s being said about you?
We’ve been building our reputations for years. We’re all legendary for something that we’ve done or failed to do.
In business parlance, it’s about personal brand-building. People describe us, label us, and categorize us so they know what to do about us when we cross their paths.
We’re all positioned to take charge of our reputations and manage them.
If we don’t know what’s being said about us, we don’t know what to enhance and what to fix. When it comes to our careers, there are plenty of signs when our reputations aren’t the best:
- Reference letters we request are weak or not provided
- Our performance reviews are lackluster, especially on the behavioral side
- No one asks us for input or seeks our association
- Opportunity is slow in coming or ends in disappointment
Everyone weighs-in all the time about what they believe we stand for—our peers, supervisors, customers, and even suppliers. We’re all someone’s paparazzo and they ours. Their truth is often just what they see.
Building a reputation to be proud of requires our attention, commitment, and discipline. It’s a reflection of things we value most and live by:
- Our principles—like not looking the other way in the face of wrong
- Code of conduct—like not being rude or abusive when we’re poked
- Integrity—like not cheating, lying, or ignoring the rules
- Productivity—always giving your best effort and then some
- Appearance—presenting yourself as a professional, no matter what your job
Like it or not, each of these leaves impressions that stick and accumulate.
I’m sure you remember kids from high school whom you thought were untrustworthy, bullying, caring, high achieving, or enthusiastic.
When you go back to a reunion, don’t those memories come back before you replace them?
Sometimes it’s not a reunion but a business encounter that resurfaces our earlier reputations.
I’d been a high school teacher for 10 years before switching to a business career. I was amazed when these events happened:
- I discovered that a supervisor in a call center I was managing had been a former student.
- As a consultant, I was proposing services to a non-profit leadership staff when one of the managers gasped. She suddenly realized I’d been her teacher.
- I got an e-mail from a woman who figured out after several “close encounters” and conversations about me with others that she was a student of mine while in another state.
We were people who reconnected after more than 20 years. Because our shared reputations had been positive, we easily became champions for each other in our careers.
Imagine how this might have turned out had we carried negative reputations.
Protect your “self”!
Who we are matters to others, so our reputations should matter to us. If you don’t know how you’re regarded, ask people whose opinions you trust, not just people who’ll tell you what you want to hear. Talk to friends, coworkers, your boss, family members, and neighbors.
When we know how what our reputations are, we can make the right changes and build on our strengths.
That might mean reconsidering whom you affiliate with at work, how you act, what you say, the way you treat people, and how you respond to change.
Please take time routinely for introspection. Decide how you want to be thought of. Make self-discovery a high priority. It’s the best gift you’ll ever give yourself. A great reputation has long-lasting, asset value, exactly what your career needs to grow.